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WSW: Gangsters on Vacation in Southwest Michigan

Courtesy of the Author

A traffic stop in Saint Joseph in 1929 started a chain of events that led police to a home in Stevensville, and a stash of weapons used in the infamous "Saint Valentine Day's Massacre."   

(Note: a version of this story aired on WMUK's Arts & More on July 8th.)

Author and historian Chriss Lyon told WMUK's Erin Williams that when officer Charles Skelly tried to stop a motorist involved in an earlier accident, he was shot and killed. The police investigation led to a home where they found two Thompson submachine guns, revolvers and rounds of ammunition. Tests would later reveal that the guns and ammunition were used in the Saint Valentine's Day Massacre. 

"Coming from a killer of his stature, it's pretty amazing that he was able to admit that."

Lyon says up until the murder of officer Skelly, members of Al Capone's inner circle would vacation in Southwest Michigan. But she says when they were there, the mobsters were on vacation and not committing crimes. Lyon says the killing of officer Skelly made the connection to Al Capone, and his associates who had used Southwest Michigan as a get-away from criminal activity in Chicago. 

Fred "Killer" Burke only admitted to committing one crime. Lyon says on his way to the state prison in Marquette, Burke said he was sorry that he killed Charles Skelly. Lyon says "Coming from a killer of his stature, it's pretty amazing that he was able to admit that."

Gordon Evans became WMUK's Content Director in 2019 after more than 20 years as an anchor, host and reporter. A 1990 graduate of Michigan State, he began work at WMUK in 1996.
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